Real-world N95 mask test

As part of our move from Maskachusetts to the Florida Free State I had to spend some time cleaning out a shed attached to the back of our garage. Under the no-squirrel-is-illegal principle, rodents had occupied the fiberglass-insulated attic of said garage, which resulted in a shower of fiberglass fragments and dust into the shed.

To protect my lungs against the fiberglass dust and years of ordinary dust, I donned an N95 mask (March 2020 value: $100!) given to me by a dentist friend (she buys them 3,000 at a time). Ready to enter the variant COVID-19 clinic, right? Within a minute, I began sneezing from the dust that had apparently slipped around the edges of the mask.

Hospitals employ professional mask fitters and make at least 6 different sizes and shapes of N95 masks available to patient-facing staff. Now I know why!


7 thoughts on “Real-world N95 mask test

  1. Another alternative is a P95 mask. You don’t need it for the oil but it has a nice foam seal.

  2. During part of my misspent yoof, early one summer just after HS adjourned for the summer I had a friend (who is still a friend) whose uncle owned an industrial carpet installation business in NJ. One day he called me up: “My uncle Philly is short a few guys next week and he has to replace the carpet in a huge high school. You want to work with me and the rest of his crew? He put me in charge of them. It’s going to be a lot of work, man. Sweaty and hard for the whole week, a lot of time on your knees, and lifting some really big rolls of carpet. And we have to strip the floors to the concrete, too. You up for it? $17.50 an hour cash if we can get the job done before Friday afternoon.”

    At the time $17.50 an hour was Nelson Rockefeller money to me, I was lifting weights and running 5 miles a day, looking Polish Jersey Shore and I jumped at it.

    Long story short, a lot of the job consisted of slicing the existing carpet in long hallways into 1.5 foot wide strips, removing the baseboards, and then pulling up the carpet and stripping the glue underneath with these vibrating “billy goat” machines with blades that vibrated like a nuclear Norelco, making your hands and arms numb and throwing up a pretty good quantity of rubberized, black dust.

    We wore good masks, the equivalent IIRC of N-95s, but no respirators. I noticed by the end of the week that I was utterly, totally exhausted, sore everywhere, and was also coughing up what looked like the LaBrea Tar Pits for about 5 minutes every morning when I woke up and my lungs cleared out. It took about a week afterward for that to completely stop. In retrospect I should have insisted on a respirator but nobody else had them and I didn’t want to sound like a … girlie man, to use one vernacular term.

  3. Show us your head covered in dust. Time for dentists to up their $300,000 purchase order game to $3,000,000, now that quantitative easing is expanding to $8 trillion/year.

  4. Ironically, one can also breathe in polypropylene fibers from the mask material itself:

    The meltblown fleece containing these fibers is supposed to be sandwiched between two outer layers that don’t shed polypropylene fibers.

    This seems to be one reason why the mask use of non-reusable masks is limited (they need to be thrown away after 8 hours of use): The protective layer can be damaged, also by sun exposure.

  5. Did you make a serious attempt to fit and seal the mask, or was it an anti mask blogging opportunity from the beginning?

    I find it hard to believe that it’s that hard to get s seal for someone like you. Hospitals are full of two-digit IS staff.

    • I use double-digit sided tape at the top edge of my mask. I invented this years ago for use when bicycling. Masks are handy to keep your face warm in winter while on a speeding bicycle, but my glasses wear getting fogged. (I live in Japan, so there has never been anything weird about wearing a mask.)

      Right now I’m using a Japanese brand of double tape, really more of a 3/8 inch-ish adhesive gum that is released when you peel the paper backing off. But 3M has good alternatives. You don’t want something too adhesive, but on the other hand you don’t want a little sweat or skin oil to immediately release the tape.

Comments are closed.